Saturday, May 17, 2008

I Don't Play Favorites

I just searched my own blog and can't believe I've never ranted about this:


I despise them to the core of my being (the one rare exception: the website that allows you to ask and answer your own questions). Why do I hate them?

They rarely ask answerable questions.

For instance, I had to set up three security questions to get into my bank account. I did NOT get to choose these questions. They were:

Favorite restaurant?
Favorite drink?
Favorite person?

I have no single, favorite restaurant, nor do I usually have an answer for the questions like them: favorite TV show? movie? song? actor? etc? etc? (I actually do have a favorite drink: diet Pepsi. But rarely do I have a single answer to a question like this.)

The third question is the worst. It reminds me of the old "philosophical" question: your child and your spouse are drowning. You can only save one. Which one will you save and why?

Cookies, I don't have a favorite person. The people in my life bring me joy in different ways. I'd like to think they feel the same way about me in relationship to the other people in their lives.

Today I had to set up a new charge card for online payment. I had to answer FIVE security questions. They gave me about 20 to choose from, but at least 15 of them were "favorite" questions. Several others were "it depends" questions: e.g., where did you meet your spouse? (Are you asking specifically where we were [in the hallway between the old building and the new], or generally [high school]? Am I going to remember which answer I gave or, more importantly, how I worded it?) I was barely able to find five answerable questions. I already keep a notebook with passwords. I'd hate to have to start another for answers to security questions.

And the bank account problem? I had to solve it just that way: make a decision -- not entirely true because these are not my "favorite" restaurant and person -- and write the answers down.

Which seems to me not so secure after all.


Bee said...

What happened to asking for your mother's maiden name? Unless she was married lots of times, that's a pretty straightforward one.

The "favorite person" one takes the cake! I could maybe limit it to 20 favorite people . . .

Bitty said...

In fact, in the more recent situation, mother's maiden name was one of the few questions that inspired a stable answer.

I think on the one hand that the only proper thing to do if you're going to ask these kinds of questions is to allow the client to create questions and answers herself. On the other hand, I wonder if many people would not think far enough ahead to realize that the question would need to be answered exactly the same way every time.

For instance, a person might ask herself: What was my favorite vacation? and in the initial setup say, "diving in the Bahamas" but two years later when an event comes up to use the question, she might answer, "going to the Bahamas."

Or worse, she's had a better vacation in the meantime and the answer has completely changed.

More effective, perhaps, is the "site image." The only superior thing about this is that I get to give the images goofy captions, and all I have to do is recognize that yes, that's my goofy caption. (For instance, one image was a poorly rendered crueller -- I think -- and I called it "concrete donut." I laugh every time I see it.) But perhaps people don't do that and just call it "donut," in which case I don't get the point of the images at all.